Carrots: a love-hate relationship

I sowed carrots again this weekend. Carrots are one of the very few vegetables that we do not/cannot start in our seedling greenhouse. They are very uncompromising, carrots – an all or nothing kind of vegetable. Either you get it right with your seeder, or …you are forever trying to get it right. This year has seen more of the latter, and carrots are becoming the bane of my existence, I kid you not. Poor germination, overwhelming weeds – to name but two sources of carrot-related frustration. And so this weekend, I sowed carrots, again. In the quiet of a late afternoon, it was just my seeder, my soil and me. A farmer friend told me not to fight it, to step smoothly, to gently guide the seeder in the furrow in a steady but flowing motion…and let the seeds do the rest. Saturday, I sowed my carrots and felt that perhaps I was getting better at it.

When water is scarce

A scant two or three days over 30◦C and already, you’d think we’re at the height of summer! All of a sudden we’re faced with full-on heat, humidity, scarce rains and trying to figure out how to deal with it all. Fortunately, over the years we’ve developed something of a Pavlovian reflex: as soon as we see hot weather settling in, we move to unwind our ‘layflat’ tubing, hook up the drip tapes and turn on the pumps in our irrigation ponds. A technical break from field work that is a life-saver for our plants, but that always begs the question : ‘what will we do if the well/pond runs dry?’ – a question which is sometimes not just a rhetorical question, as demonstrated by last year’s record-breaking July drought. To water or not to water, when to water, how much to water: it’s a calculated risk we take, we’ll deal with the fallout later if necessary.

To market, to market

The pressure has just gone up a few notches at the farm – as if we needed that – but for a great reason: namely, the impending opening of our two farm stands at Atwater and Jean Talon markets, next Friday, as the florists and nursery owners who inaugurate the outdoor market season give way to the produce growers like us who close it out when the wind turns in October…And so it is that we’ve been busy sawing, sanding, staining, painting and hammering away… nothing to do with anything agricultural per se, but all in the hopes that our stands will catch the eye of Sunday shoppers and loyal customers alike. The market season launch is both similar to, but different from, our basket season launch – it’s essentially the same produce served up to ‘regulars’ and new customers, albeit in a different setting from that of our CSA basket deliveries.


Lest we forget to remind you: we are already planning the resumption of our annual méchoui, a tradition we had let lapse with the opening of our Atwater farm stand three years ago, but which we are pleased to be reinstating this year – specifically on September 2nd, Labour Day Monday. It’s a byob potluck affair: we provide the roast meats, you bring your favourite side dishes to share and we take you all on a tour of the farm. Details to follow.

King Kale

The farm has abruptly tipped into summer, without warning or fanfare. Overnight, it seems, we’ve gone from rainy days and chilly nights to balmy weather with hints of the dog days of summer to come. Our solanaceae have suddenly regained vigor and strength, and our cool-weather-loving brassicas are even looking like they may bolt. For your market gardeners, all these signs are encouraging indicators of a morale-boosting return to normalcy in the fields. And yet we are ambivalent : these same signs herald the beginning of our annual, always epic, battle of the weeds – in which we will be engaged until Fall frosts bring the skirmishes to a definitive close. And so it is that last week ended in a flurry of hoe blades, as we took advantage of the warm sunny weather before rain scheduled to fall again later this week.

This week’s basket is an ode to kale. We produce four varieties of kale, and would like to have you sample two or three of them, depending on your respective basket sizes. While kale-based smoothies are still trendy, we find kale a welcome addition to braised or stewed dishes and a great ingredient in hearty mixed salads. We’ll be serving up other brassicas, too, as we continue to await the imminent arrival of strawberries. We look forward to seeing you all again.

Week One

Just as we were beginning to despair, the sun finally appeared, and some heat, too. As we toured the fields today, Sunday, we felt Mother Nature bursting at the seams, impatient to make up for lost time. Like us, she is all too aware that summer is short in our northern climes and that a successful season means taking advantage of every minute of every hour of sunshine that the weather will allow. We’ve already had a few unwelcome visitors – potato beetles in our eggplants, cucumber beetles in our winter squash. Isn’t it early, you may ask – indeed it is, but climate change oblige, past is no longer prologue. They have arrived, and we’ll have to make do. Beetles notwithstanding, the season is finally launched, and we’re glad.

Cool weather

Yo-yoing weather forecasts, mad transplanting dashes between scattered rain showers and an all-around schizophrenic spring – that about sums up the world we’ve been living in for the past several weeks. Things are progressing nonetheless, and as I write these lines, having taken advantage of the rare sunny moments and selected the least humid of our vegetable beds, we’ve managed to stay abreast of our planting schedule so far – with everything needing to be planted actually planted. That includes our first brassicas, a whole lot of leafy greens, our early solanaceas as well as our early cucurbits (i.e. cukes and zukes). The days are still cool, the nights coooler still – our veggies are feeling the chill and their growth is sluggish. There is still a long list of veggies waiting to be (trans)planted to the fields, but we’ll need some help from Mother Nature before we can say mission accomplished. All the while, we’ve been having flashbacks to 2017, a season that started out just as wet, albeit a bit warmer, if memory serves me.

Stormy Weather

Things had been pretty zen until this week at Arlington Gardens – the weather having conspired against us, the rain and the cold having kept us chomping at our bit. Zen doesn’t mean not busy, it just means not insanely busy, with seeding in the greenouse continuing apace, and transplanting too – herbs, root celery, tomatoes, eggplant, even. These are the moments I prefer, of quiet solitude and intense concentration. Transplanting means giving the seedling more space to grow, then watching it spread its wings, so to speak, and fly. While the exercise seems fraught, to worry is to understimate plants – they are far more resilient than they seem. Yanking it from its cocoon, moving it from the known to the unknown – ie creating a bit of stress – triggers the plant’s instinct of survival and then some. In just a few days, they are thriving again…

Our registrations have been ticking along – we’re at approximately two thirds of our target for the 2019 season. Only 5 weeks to go before deliveries begin, so hurry up and register if you haven’t already. 21 organic produce baskets starting June 12 and ending November 3rd, along with the organic sourdough breads of Capitaine Levain, flexibility to accommodate your vacation schedules and most of all, good cheer at all our drop-off locations! See you soon.

April’s promise

We’re living under grey skies, and there is still a definitive chill in the air, just as Environment Canada had predicted. Nothing to presage the start of a new season. But it’s all appearances, and appearances can be deceiving. Signs of life are everywhere, starting with the hordes of blackbirds which descend on the farm daily, raucously chirping and calling out to each other as they settle and rise in unison. The blue jays are also back in force, we’re expecting the cardinals any day now. The fields have begun to thaw slowly, changing to muddy boot-sucking flats where it is best not to tread for the time being. Meanwhile, it’s full speed ahead in our seedling greenhouse, where we are starting to plant our tomatoes and eggplants, sunshine plants par excellence. Things are going so fast, in fact, that we may run out of greenhouse space by the end of April at this rate. Rumour has it there may be a greenhouse addition in the offing…

If you haven’t already done so, don’t forget to sign up for the 2019 season which starts in less than 8 weeks. 21 organic CSA baskets, delivered June 12th to November 3rd – fresh veggies, berries, melons and watermelons, generous exchange baskets, and a standing invitation to come visit us from time to time at Atwater Market from July through October. The sourdough breads of Capitaine Levain are also available once again – if you’re interested in signing up for a bread basket, click here. Last but not least, don’t forget to circle September 2nd on your calendars – as it is when we will mark the 10th year of our existence as an organic farm. Planned festivities will include a méchoui at the farm, one huge potluck to test your culinary talents – and a farm visit. We look forward to seeing you soon.

Firing Up

We’ve fired up our seedling greenhouse, just as the maple sugaring season is ramping up. For some farmers who do both at this time of year – and we know a few – the seasonal rush is even greater, as doing both keeps them working nearly round the clock. We don’t do both, but even so, just starting our onions and leeks this week has kept us busy. Swept out the greenhouse – check; verified our heating systems – check; defrosted the water pipes – check. We’re off to the races, the season is already looking good – intense, but good. Among other things, we’ll be readying ourselves for a seedling sale at the farm, the weekend of May 18-19. We’ll provide a list of available plants in short order.

Meanwhile, registration for CSA baskets is in full swing – you can sign up here if you haven’t done so already. Our 21-basket season will run from June 12 to November 3. This year, we want to focus on the diversity of content in the baskets and in our exchange basket – which will be larger and more varied than in the past – to ensure a larger selection of vegetables throughout the season. Another focal point this season will be the use of plastic in our baskets, which we hope to reduce to a minimum or eliminate, even. More on our zero waste efforts to come. Registration for the sourdough organic breads of Capitaine Levain has also begun, you’ll find their Arlington Gardens sign-up links here (paniers surprises and paniers au choix) as well as on our own bread basket sign-up tab.

We hope to see you back in droves at our drop-off locations. It’s been a long winter, spring is almost here – we’re sooooooo looking forward to summer and to seeing you all again.

2019 Season Launch

Drum roll #1 : the 2019 CSA basket season at Arlington Gardens has begun! Drum roll #2 : we will be celebrating our 10th anniversary this year! Indeed, it was a little over 10 years ago that we moved to Stanbridge East to sow a few seeds and offer up the fruits of our labour. We will also be celebrating 10 years of your generous support, a solidarity that moves us and helps sustain us in our mission, transcending both the mundane and the complex challenges of our daily farm existence. So be sure to mark your calendars : planning is already underway for a celebratory farm event in September, on Labour Day Monday.

The launch of the 2019 season means you can sign up for your CSA basket here & now. This year, we are back to a regular CSA programme of 21 weeks for all, beginning Wednesday, June 13 and ending Sunday, November 2. Mother Nature’s unpredictable end-of-season climatic variations were making November deliveries increasingly hasardous as most of our drop-off locations are outdoors. Delivery days, times and locations are otherwise unchanged. We are happy to announce the return of sourdough breads from Capitaine Levain, our farm-fresh eggs and, if all goes as planned, honey from our very own beehives. Last but certainly not least, following on a zero-waste drive we started last year, we will be calling on all of you to help us get rid of the last of the plastic bags which we were still using in our weekly deliveries and at the market. Stay tuned – we’ll get back to you with details on that front in due course.


From now on, we will keep you apprised of our seasonal farm prep via regular emails invite you to follow us on facebook and instagram. We hope to see you back in droves, and look forward to sharing the earth’s bounty and the summer’s warmth with you all.